Mega Man Battle Network 4 / 4.5 / 5 Complete Music Collection
Mega Man Battle Network 4 / 4.5 / 5 Complete Music Collection (Rockman EXE Game Music Complete Works: Rockman EXE 4 & 4.5 & 5)
March 16, 2005
Buy Used Copy
Within an 18 month period, Capcom released three new games in the Mega Man Battle Network series for the Game Boy Advance between 2003 and 2005. As with the games themselves, the soundtracks generally failed to keep up with the fast development pace of the series and the soundtracks on this album are a step below those of its predecessor. This two-disc album features the complete soundtracks for all three games, which were penned by Toshihiko Horiyama and Akari Kaida. The album is now out of print, but its contents have been replicated in the Mega Man Battle Network Sound Box featuring the music from the entire series.
Mega Man Battle Network 4 was scored by Toshihiko Horiyama, a veteran Mega Man composer who has contributed to the original, X, and Legends series. For the title, he goes back to basics – rejecting Yoshino Aoki’s increasing fusion influences in favour of more authentic chiptune elements and a new sound palette. This is particularly reflected by one of the few reprises here, “Hometown”, which deviates from the jazz influence of the previous instalment of a much simpler, choppier 8-bit track. There are instances where this approach is effective. The battle theme “Cyber Battle”, rather than incorporate electronic elements, is stripped down to just three 8-bit sound channels, just like a NES soundtrack. However, Horiyama’s ingenious writing of the lead and rhythm parts ensures the music still packs quite a punch. “Save Our Planet” is a similarly-styled track used towards the conclusion of the game and is reminiscent of some of the best music from Horiyama’s video game debut, Mega Man X. The composer also adapts this approach to create more typical RPG-influenced themes such as “Densan Stadium”, “Navi Customiser”, and “Cielo Castillo”; they’re not quite as compositionally impressive or melodically charming as Aoki’s equivalent compositions, but still get the job done. Horiyama also effectively experiments with chiptune noise in “ANSA”, moody grooves in “Invisible Wings”, and rock undertones in “Battle Pressure”.
While the ‘back to basics’ concept for Mega Man Battle Network 4’s soundtrack was an inspired one, it seems that Horiyama also sometimes used it as an excuse to make some rudimentary compositions. Many of the tracks here should have been rejected. “Silent Darkness” is a dark ambient composition that reverberates between three suspended chords and a scalar treble motif. In addition to being musically simplistic, it proves extremely boring to listen to on a stand-alone level and creates little atmosphere in context. “Dracula’s Mansion” and “Vampire” were created in similar manner. With Horiyama having scored the legendary Demon’s Crest, it’s surprisingly that the darker material that he produces here is so dull and derivative. The disappointments continue along the way with the likes of “In the Room” and “Story of Wonder” with their 15 second loops, “Player Admission” and “Versus” with their jarring discords, or “Incident!”, a most unwelcome returnee from earlier in the series. The soundtrack does go some way to compensate for these failings with the superb aforementioned battle tracks, as well as an excellently integrated new theme. Its introduction in “Theme of Rockman EXE4” is filled with the charismatic melodies and bittersweet undertones of 80s rock anthems. Horiyama cleverly incorporates the theme into multiple other tracks, including sombre interlude “Sad Rain”, the final countdown “Under Justice”, and another solid ending theme.
The soundtrack for the Japan-only spinoff title Rockman EXE 4.5: Real Operation is featured between the discs. In the game, players can control one of the many different NetNavis from previous games to compete in NetBattle tournaments. For the soundtrack, Kaida and Horiyama wrote individual character themes for each of the 21 Navi companions that can be chosen. While some of these tracks are brand new compositions, for example the jazzy ThunderMan and NumberMan, the majority are direct remixes of stage themes from the original Mega Man series. The themes for GutsMan and IceMan are direct remixes of Manami Matsumae’s tunes from the original Mega Man, whereas the themes for WoodMan and MetalMan are based on Takashi Tateishi’s hit soundtrack to Mega Man 2. Later games in the original series also receive plenty of attention, for example with a trifecta of Mega Man 6 tunes (WindMan, KnightMan, PlantMan) or the Bass arrangement from Mega Man 7. Mega Man’s own theme, on the other hand, is appropriately a remix of Akari Kaida’s main theme for the Battle Network series. The arrangements themselves aren’t anything special, but they properly highlight the original melodies while staying faithful to the chiptune sound of the Battle Network series. They’ll be highly nostalgic for series’ long-timers.
There are plenty of new compositions used to embellish Rockman EXE 4.5: Real Operation. Akari Kaida’s guest contributions are all impressive. Her battle themes “Battlefield”, “Tournament Battle”, and “The Fighter’s Soul” rank as some of the best in the series. The first two build on the sound she established for the original Mega Man Battle Network title with their rousing melodies, frenetic rhythms, and chiptune stylings. As with Yoshino Aoki, it feels that Kaida grew more confident in her chiptune stylings in the time between her first and second games in the series. “The Fighter’s Soul”, on the other hand, is a jagged track that drives much of the chaos in the final battle. “Drill System” and “Search Mission” are relatively modest highlights, but prove stylish and entertaining nonetheless. On the other hand, Horiyama’s offerings mostly disappoint. He is responsible for most of the short repetitive tracks, such as “PET Display”, “Lecture”, “Tournament Under Way” and “Awaken the Wind” that bring very little to the experience. His main theme, Internet theme (“Life in the Network”), and ending theme (“All Cast”) are more elaborate compositions. However, they lack the charm or personality of those of the main series and feel a little shoed-in.
Following two fairly disappointing instalments to the series, Akari Kaida took the reins once more as the sole composer of Mega Man Battle Network 5. She ends up delivering the most polished soundtrack in the series to date, though doesn’t stray far from the series’ formula. Whether the gallant chiptune tones of the main and overworld themes, the boundless electronic influences of the Internet themes, or the conformist reprises of mainstay “Hometown”, the series does feel like it has exhausted the possibilities of its core sound. However, Kaida does partially make up for this by ensuring that all the material here is at least decent. There are still generic scene-setting tracks here, such as the calming “In the Room”, elating “Enemy Deleted!”, or sinister “Abandoned Mine”, but they’re thankfully few in number and hardly as obnoxious as those from the last two instalments. Amidst such filler tracks, there’s also plenty of substantial highlights such as the “Navi Customiser” and “Quest in the Water” with their bubbly electronic timbres or “End City” and “Castle of NINJA!” with their surprisingly catchy fusions of chiptune and traditional Japanese elements. In the end, though the soundtrack isn’t quite as exciting as the series’ best Mega Man Battle Network 3, it ranks as one of the series’ best stand-alone experiences.
Where Mega Man Battle Network 5 stands out is for its action tracks. “Battle Start!”, “Drill Crush!”, “Liberate Mission”, and “Powerful Enemy” are just a few of the offerings. They adhere closely to the series’ trademark sound, with elating chiptunes and danceable rhythms, but didn’t overstay their welcome for me at least. Fans of old-school RPG battle music will certainly love such tracks. Just as Horiyama did in the series’ fourth entry, Kaida also does a good job of integrating the main theme, particularly in emotional tracks such as “A Heart’s Shadow” and climactic action tracks like “You’re Not Alone” and “A Total War”. These theme reprises and action tracks, combined with the relative lack of slow-paced tracks this time round, ensure the soundtrack really races towards its conclusion. The climax comes with “Vs Nebula Gray”, a momentous final battle theme that packs an incredible amount of melodic and harmonic intricacies into its 90 second playtime, before the soundtrack wraps up with its mellow and nostalgic main theme reprise “Chain of Wish”. Rounding off the disc are full sound renditions of the main themes of 4.5 and 5 used during promotion videos. While they highlight the charming melodies of the original themes, these electro remixes are quite bland and disappoint after the outstanding bonus remixes at the end of the first soundtrack release for the series.
Whereas Mega Man Battle Network’s first album release saw the series’ music find its identity, this second album release sees the series show signs of fatigue. While there are plenty of highlights across the two discs, there are also plenty of tracks that are either sloppy or generic. While the Mega Man Battle Network 5 soundtrack is a solid 4 star effort, making up for its conservatism with its sheer quality, the other two are sadly 3 star efforts due to their greatly inconsistent quality. It would be better to skip this out-of-print soundtrack in favour of the series’ box sets that features all the series’ scores.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on July 18, 2016 by Chris Greening. Last modified on July 18, 2016.